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Naming the Stones: 3. The Test
Chapter 3: The Test
It was at that moment that he knew that he desired her, when she stood bathed in sunlight, her hair forming a halo about her and her hands reaching up as she sang to the dawn. 'A! Elbereth Gilthoniel!' Galadriel sang, and the Elven and human children responded in one voice, drawn upward by her beauty. Elrond turned away, flushed by the sudden passion taking hold of him. How have I not seen, he thought, how have I not known? At that moment he cared for nothing, not wisdom and not teaching, not books and not stories, not song and not healing, not Middle Earth nor the Blessed Realm, nothing save that he possess her, though it be with his dying breath. He faced her again, and her beauty filled his mind, shocking him with its power.
When the morning-song ended Galadriel left Elrond alone with the children, and it was to him like the sun departing from the heavens. He stumbled through his lessons and dismissed the students as early as he could. Then he sat alone, taking in his sudden yearning. After all this time, he thought, how have I not known? How have I not seen?
He found Galadriel in the garden, kneeling among the elanor-flowers. He came to her breathless, with a face unlike any she had seen before. He threw himself down next to her and grabbed her hand, unable to speak. Then he touched her face, and his hand felt like fire to her. "What has come in to you?" she asked, far from pleased.
"Desire," he croaked. "Madness. Desire." Then he did something he had never before done: he fled from her.
He went to the small stream near his study, hoping for some privacy and a chance to sort out the strange thoughts in his mind. He put his hands in the water and let the coolness and the sound of water over stones bring him some calm.
After a time Galadriel joined him. She sat on a rock nearby, close enough to touch, and waited for him to speak. "I don't understand," he said, voicing his confusion and fear. "You know my mind so well, you have led it so skillfully to wherever you thought it would learn best. Why have I come to desire you? Why have you not turned me aside?" Then he realized what he was saying, and turned it around as she had taught him. "I know I cannot have you. Why have I led myself to desire you? I don't understand." He looked down, afraid to meet her eyes. "Why?" he demanded, "Tell me for once in your life as plainly as you can, without riddles!"
She nodded. He deserved some explanation, although explaining was far from being her strong point. This teaching was perhaps the cruelest she had to give, but it, too, must be borne. "You have lived long enough without desire. You must face your desire as well, and learn the truths it can teach."
"But is it only about teaching?" Elrond asked, his eyes finally rising to meet hers.
Galadriel met his gaze, but did not answer his question. "I will lie with you if you wish it," she said, simply.
His hand reached out, almost against his will, and twisted a lock of her long golden hair around his finger. Then he froze. That light, the light he saw in Galadriel's hair, he had seen it before.
Elrond had always believed he had never seen a Silmaril. But seeing now Galadriel's hair he remembered the night of the battle at Sirion, when Maglor and his soldiers had come to his house to seize his family and all its treasures. He was climbing out his bedroom window with his baby brother in his arms, and as he stood there balanced between the noise of the soldiers in the house and the horror of the battle below he saw a light from his mother's rooms upstairs. Elwing was flying away, a Silmaril on her breast. The stone lit the night, stopping the battle for a moment, as the soldiers on both sides gazed up at the beauty above them. Then the moment passed, and Elwing was gone.
He had been young then, young enough to forget what could not bear remembering. But as Elrond held Galadriel's hair in his fingers he remembered that light, and thought how strange it was that the very light he had never allowed himself to remember desiring was now in his grasp. Remembered desire burned him then, and he burned.
This desire was not for Galadriel. At that moment the teacher who had sat with him all these years in the forest was as nothing to him. Only the light, the light of the Silmaril that remained, somehow, with her, had any meaning. Controlling her, controlling this light, he could be among the great of Arda. Even the Valar had not such a light. Yet even this he could possess, now, if he were willing to take it. She would yield it up to him. Or if she would not, he would take it from her. In his mind's eye he was already throwing her to the ground, seizing the light and making it his own.
His fingers tightened in her hair, pulling so as to cause pain. He reached up his other hand to take her or strike her. Then his eyes returned to her face. Her gaze on him was still kind, as much as he did not believe that this could be so. Tell me your name, he remembered the teaching-words. What name would he give at this moment? He thought of one, and was ashamed.
He unwound his fingers and brought his hands back to his lap. "This is a test," he said, suddenly realizing it. "You want to see if I, like Maglor, can be transformed by desire into what I despise. I will not be, even though you have shown me what I long for."
Galadriel did not answer, as if it were a teaching and all judgements would have to come from within. Elrond could not bear it. "Have I passed the test?" he asked.
"Almost," she answered.
In Silmarillion 5 'Of Eldamar' we are told that Galadriel had in her hair the light of Laurelin, the younger of the two trees of Valinor. It was from these trees that the light of the Silmarils was taken.
Thanks to Jill for reading the first draft.
Next (&last) chapter: a conversation with Celeborn, and some forgiveness.
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